My cousin Mary Beth lives on the Cape, and has these wonderful next door neighbors. Lew and Paul spend part of the year in Massachusetts, and part of the year in Florida, where they have their businesses. And where they have Lew’s mother.
I haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting Bertha Gordon, but Mary Beth knows her well from Bertha’s frequent visits up north. My sister Kathleen and her husband Rick got to meet her recently, and reported that Bertha is, as advertised, amazing – from her delightful personality and sense of humor, right down to the coral suede flats that matched her sweater. I’m hoping to meet Bertha on her holiday swing this way. Can’t wait.
But what’s amazing about Bertha Gordon is not that, at 92, she remains with it, engaging, perky, and nattily dressed. It’s what she’s still managing to do at 92 that has me in awe. What Bertha does is volunteer. Make that VOLUNTEER with a capital V-O-L-U-N-T-E-E-R.
Bertha’s volunteering attracted some recent attention when, while Irma was battering Florida, she managed to get into the Delray Medical Center in Delray Beach and get to work. Here’s some of what Tenet Health wrote about Bertha:
Even in the midst of Hurricane Irma, Delray Medical Center’s 92-year-old volunteer, Bertha Gordon, continued to volunteer her time at the hospital’s ER making beds, visiting with patients and helping to provide the best patient experience possible. Gordon wears many hats at Delray Medical – she is President of the Auxiliary, Star Walker, Golf Tournament organizer, Santa’s elf, and emergency department volunteer. For a little lady, she packs a lot of energy. Her 26 years and almost 7,000 hours of volunteer experience at Delray Medical Center has taught her that you always get back more than you give. (Source: Tenet Health)
Little lady – they ain’t kidding. Bertha is under 5 feet tall and weighs about 80 lbs. And 7,000 hours, even spread over 26 years, is pretty darned impressive. That’s an average of five hours a week. Which is a lot. And the ER isn’t exactly the least stressful place in the hospital to hang out. My husband and I logged a few sessions in the MGH ER during the years of his illness, and, if Delray Medical Center is anything like MGH, we’re talking lots of people buzzing around, bad lighting, and lots of noise.
Hospital volunteering isn’t it for Bertha. In addition to the two days she’s working at the hospital, she logs another two days in the nurse’s office of a local elementary school. And, just so the fifth potential workday in the workweek doesn’t go to waste, she spends another day making dolls for kids with cancer.
What a lazy bones! What a slouch!
When you’re working full time, you’re always sort of thinking about packing it in. But maybe no so much time thinking about what you’re going to pack into all those hours that were once consumed by working, getting ready for work, commuting to work, commuting back home from work, thinking about work, worrying about work, bitching about work, etc.
Having gone freelance in my fifties, I got a head start on what to do when you’re not being consumed by all of the above.
Right now, I have managed to come up with a pretty good mix. Enough freelance work to keep my hand in (and some coin in the piggy bank), and enough volunteer work to get me out of the house and with other people – which, given that I work from home and can go weeks without having any contact with clients that’s not via email,is important.
Don’t know if I’ll make it to 92. But if I do, I definitely know I won’t be adorbs – that ain’t never going to happen. And these size 11-double A flat feet will definitely not be in cute coral flats. They’ll be in ugly, sensible shoes. Kind of like they are now. But how great would it be, getting out there five days a week, doing things with it for other people, staying active, staying engaged, staying in the game. Maybe it’s not what everyone wants, but I sure wouldn’t mind being Bertha Gordon when I grow up.